My mom was in her 90s, and I knew her death was getting closer. It could be one year away or maybe more, but I knew it would come before my heart or head were ready. I began reflecting on all the things, large and small, she did for me. I contemplated how my bother and our families would one day honor the love and care she gave us, our families and our friends. I started to think about her funeral.
I am a fan of good funerals; the ones where a life story is shared in a meaningful way. A good funeral is one where, even if you go to support a friend and did not know the person who died, you leave wishing you had known that person.
My mom’s funeral would give our family an occasion to recognize her life and share her story. Her funeral would provide us with the chance to hear stories that may never be told again and to feel support from those who were grieving the loss of her and loved us as well. We’d see old friends and family members we might never see again.
Honoring a life is a considerable task, so planning Mom’s visitation and funeral would bring great responsibility and opportunity. Every life has moments best forgotten, but most people’s lives are with filled extraordinary moments. When thinking about Mom’s funeral, I wanted to be sure to recognize some of her best moments.
On September 8, 2017, my mom died. She was 94. Neither my heart nor my head were ready. It was time to arrange her funeral.
I began to write her obituary. This was the first chance to tell her story, and I wanted it to be meaningful and engaging. It took about 6 hours to write a first draft and another couple to edit.
With the obituary completed, our next task was to put together the photos that told mom’s story. Assembling those took us on an astonishing walk down memory lane. We picked some that made us laugh and some that made us cry. Mostly, we picked the ones that represented the love between my mom and dad, her beloved husband of 55 years, and the family they built together.
We wanted those who would attend the visitation and did not know our mom to get an idea of who she was, so we displayed items that connected people to her legacy. Recipe cards for some of her favorite yummy cookies (her cooking jar was always full) and a table covered with St. Louis Cardinals items were on display. A wedding photo and a portrait of her drawn by a German prisoner of war and given to my dad were there, along with posters of the many photos we had gathered.
We collected quotes from family members that expressed how mom had affected their lives and put them on easels, so they could be easily read. One granddaughter’s quote read, “Grandma taught me that true love can be everlasting.” Another shared, “Grandma always made my friends feel welcome.” We shared a quote from mom too, "My favorite part about being a grandparent: love 'em, spoil 'em and send 'em home."
Her funeral was held in the church where she was baptized and confirmed; the one she attended her entire life. We sang her favorite hymns and celebrated her contribution to the world. The pastor talked about her, as did my brother and me. We honored who she was and what she had given to all of us.
I hope it was a good funeral and if there were people there who had never met her, they went home wishing they had.